Mail Bag Question – 57 Years Old and Unemployed. Now What?

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

57 years oldIf you were 57 years old and lost your job, what would you do? At that age, it’s not so easy to start over.  Her’s an email I received some time ago from a gentleman facing this exact problem:

My biggest financial challenge:

I am employed and will be losing a job in 4 months; I am an 57 years old and I believe I will experience age discrimination while looking for a new job.

My wife does not work outside the home; we have a daughter that is in college.

I did not save for college and retirement; my current employer has a qualified saving plan (401(k)) and I have to make sure I provide for college and try to save for retirement and health care premiums. What should I do?

What would you tell Jerry?  My approach would be to address each issue independently. Let’s deal with the employment issue first.

Jerry’s job is winding down and he expects difficulties finding new work.

At 57, he may indeed encounter age discrimination when he goes looking for new work. If that does happen, I don’t think it would be the best use of his time or money to fight it. It’s probably not a battle he can win. Having said that, there are still a ton of things he can do:

a. Start looking for new work now.

Your current employer may not sufficiently value your experience, but you will find another employer who does. Use social media effectively. Talk to friends. Scan Craig’s List. You should also talk to HR at your current job – they may be able to help. Regardless of your/ or age and education level, you can still find a good job.  Don’t give up

Jerry may find it tough to find work.  But he only needs to find one. Each interview he goes on now gets him closer to that “yes.” And he should not assume that the new job will be worse than his current position. You never know what’s out there. Maintain a positive attitude.  (Here’s a post that might help.  It talks about finding a job despite terrible conditions.)

b. Hire yourself out as a consultant and start now.

List your services at and Use these sites to find work during the weekend that can become your full-time business later on. These are great sites that allow independent contractors to bid on all kinds of work. If your current contract forbids this kind of action, talk to your employer and see if they will make an exception. It doesn’t hurt to ask. They might feel terrible about phasing your job out, and if so you can use my favorite secret weapon on them – guilt.

I started my career in a bank a few decades ago. After a few years, I decided to set out on my own. About a year before I opened my own shop, I started using a marketing program because I wanted to make sure that I could find new clients after I left the bank.

While I was employed at the bank, I introduced new clients to the bank’s financial services of course. But once I knew the marketing program worked, I left the bank.

Use the time you have now to build up a consulting business in your field of expertise. When the day comes that your job is phased out, you might find that you are making more money than ever.

c. Consider starting a new business but be careful.

I strongly recommend that people refrain from opening businesses in which they have no experience. And even if you do have the experience and skills you need to be an excellent employee, that doesn’t mean you have the skills to be an excellent business owner and manager.

I love small business and small business owners. I have nothing but respect for these people. But it is safer to start a business slowly and build it up. Don’t sink too much money into something before you see a positive cash flow.

If you insist on going into business and you don’t want to go the consulting route, consider buying a franchise. Make sure you do your homework and only get involved with a franchise that is growing and has demand. Talk to as many existing franchise owners as you can. Talk to franchise owners who have closed their stores. Find out why they closed.

d. If possible, Jerry’s wife should consider working too.

Health permitting, this could be great for both Jerry and his wife. Especially since they don’t seem to have small children at home anymore. She might find it very rewarding on a personal level and her salary will help take some pressure off of Jerry.

These are four ideas Jerry can use to increase his income. Can you think of anything else Jerry should consider?

Do you think these are good ideas or are these suggestions unrealistic?

photo by JC Westbrook, Flikr


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck February 15, 2014 at 8:07 AM

I guess I sing a song of ignorance. I am 55 yrs old and out of work. Skated by many years working with out a High School Diploma or GED. I guess all that has caught up with me today.
Whats strange is, I was in business for myself for 10 of those years.
I held positions in many other jobs that paid well. Now all that’s gone down the tubes.
I am experienced in many self taught trades and good at them. Still no one wants to hire me. Why?
In all the years before, no one had ever asked me for a high school diploma or GED Certificate. Why start asking now?
I can read and write rather well for not going any further than 8th.
When I was in business for myself, I Serviced, Sold, & Rented consumer electronics. I was an authorized service center for many named brands of the time . I also had the Service Contract with BestBuy in my regional area before they developed there own in house service centers.
I opened a second store 2 years later operating and managing both with employees to cover customer sales and phones to allow me to do what I do best. Service and repair electronics. I owned the latest Sencore TV analyzing equipment available on the market. Expensive but well worth every penny. Not working with a butter knife and scissors in my business nor did I work out of some dilapidated shed in the back yard.
I kept my own books and filed my own taxes each year. Kept up with employee payroll and filed and sent in withholding 940’s and 941’s each quarter. I could go on and on with what all I did. It was hard demanding work at the time but I enjoyed every moment.
Then when electronics became less expensive to buy new as more and more people discarded broken electronics to buy new. My business began to suffer, so I closed the doors while the opportunity was good rather than ride it out till being bankrupt.
Once closing the doors I relocated to work at Colortym Rentals in the Corporate office as the main Servicer of TV’s & Electronics. Specialized in the service of Projection TV. This position held out till I completely serviced and repaired several months of broken equipment in there warehouse putting myself out of a job. I guess I should have drug my feet and not work so fast and well at my trade. That warehouse was jammed full of repairs needing fixed until I came along.
I then moved back home were I went to work as a Over The Road Truck Driver. I had previous experience years ago driving trucks so as a last resort I went back to it. I then later bought my own Truck going into business for myself. I continued with this till the equipment began having to many mechanical costly problems and sold it.

I want to completely get away from Long Haul Trucking as it has caused many health issues now.
I would be satisfied with even the most demenial job today.
I can not even get an interview at a fast food joint. WHY?
I own my home free and clear. I own 4 vehicles free and clear. I own a 580 case backhoe free and clear. I own a 21000 pd equipment trailer free and clear and a dump truck which actually makes me owning 5 vehicles. I have tools equipment other smaller tractors, welder and torch and know how to operate and use everything. So WHY CAN I NOT FIND A JOB?
I know it has to be my age and not having a GED or High school Diploma.
Anyone have any suggestions other than telling me to go get a GED….
I’ll go and get a GED and I will still be in the same situation, you watch…


Neal Frankle, CFP ® February 15, 2014 at 10:59 PM

I can see how frustrating this is. I would ask these people why they aren’t receptive. Just ask them to be honest. Then, address the problem. It’s impossible to fix a problem if you don’t know what it is. I would love to hear back from you and wish you luck my friend.


theresa February 1, 2014 at 5:10 AM

I am not 57 I am only 52 .A year ago I had to quit a job as a waitress because of being disable in both my hands they call it carpoletunnel. anyway I was working anyway and my knees started giving me trouble. I wasn’t getting the hours my husband and I wanted to even drive into town . Now at the same time , my husbands insurance said they wouldn’t cover me on my insurance if I was still working . So I quit. the worst mistake I ever made . since then, I have been denied for disability. my hands are numb and my knees hurt all the time what do I do ?


Neal Frankle, CFP ® February 2, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Why were you denied disability? Have you tried to appeal?


Richard September 5, 2012 at 8:53 PM

Hi I was made redundant 5 years ago at age 52. Old qualifications not worth much but life experience you and I have got more then those young hopefuls.

Jobs that need people skills can only be with some one who has people experience …you got a life time of it. Its your big seller over others You can work less hours and fit different roles.This can be fun. try new ideas. Relax more, life can be fun even when not as much ready cash. Reconnect with friends and make new friends you have time for it .
A coffee with friends at home or in their home can be interesting to exciting and is more fun and less expensive then going out to a cafe. Driving is fun but so can be taking buses and trains less expensive and more involved. The mind can change to adapt and enjoy new ways of life.


khalil oraha July 11, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Okay this is my first time doing anything like this.
So I am 57 I don’t type But I have real estate Lic and I had my oun printing company for 21 years that I closed and took a job with US Army and US Navy commados as an Interpeter with SSBI in Iraq and Germany I just got back to USA after four and half years
My family wants me to saty in California and all of the jobs for me are over seas or in the eastcoast
No High school diploma but I worked 2 jobs in united state since I got here in 1973
I just need to work till I am 67 (10 more years)
What is out there for me
Anyone knows


Cindy K November 30, 2009 at 5:04 PM

Perhaps the wife could do direct sales with a reputable direct sales company. There are several. If she is into natural products that give unusually good results,


Neal September 14, 2009 at 7:10 AM
Neal June 11, 2009 at 8:24 PM

Thanks for those kind words!


Christine May 24, 2009 at 8:06 AM

It’s always possible to borrow for college, but not at all possible for retirement. Plus, colleges offer grants, scholarships, fellowships, student jobs and work study to supplement/replace this need. Your daughter’s college needs have to come second to your retirement needs.

I recommend your wife download ms office (free for 60 days) and get an exercise book from the library to study and work her way through it. She can do the same with ms access. Target and Best Buy sell typing tutorial programs for $10 each. Spend a few minutes a day working on speed and accuracy. Look at the United Way volunteer requests online and pick an office job. Stay 6 months to provide a reference, then start looking for a job. Don’t forget the temp agencies, something could turn into a permanent job. They do thoroughly test your computer/typing skills so be prepared. If she is younger than you, she can probably establish enough social security credits to earn retirement benefits by age 67. Try sticking with this job, get cross trained and promoted with raises. Check out the local govt jobs for a very valuable pension, these are usually vested after 10 years.

As for you, start working on the resume now. See if there are any networking organizations in your field online ( sometimes). When the inevitable happens, spend that severance slowly and file for unemployment immediately. It has been extended to 12 months so this will be helpful. Do not even apply for a survival job unless there just aren’t any jobs in your area or no one else is calling. Sometimes if you try to run the unemployment to the end, you are caught without a safety net.

In the mean time, downsize to a small house, 2 used cars, no vacation home, boat, rv, etc. “The Complete Tightwad Gazette” is very helpful in changing your lifestyle. It’s a must read for both of you.,, are all very inspiring. Get caught up in the frugal lifestyle, it’s creative and challenging. No more eating out, movies, happy hour, manicures, pedicures, spa treatments, massages, golfing, sporting events, cultural events. Take all the money and start an emergency fund.

Once you are both working, read “Total Money Makeover” for a roadmap to a debt free life. We can both only hope that social security is saveable. It’s supposed to go belly up by 2016.

With a paid off house, car, no credit cards, etc, you both could have a very nice life on social security benefits alone after the age of 67 with medicare and a supplement policy. If you are living in a high cost of living area, now is a good time to consider a change.


chuck wintner May 20, 2009 at 6:02 AM

My very strong advice is for everyone to stay away from Sallie Mae. I went back to school late in life, and I will never be sble to pay off this horrible loan. Credit cards are better deals than Sallie Mae. Look for the next huge financial crunch (and bailout) to come when the vast majority of people who took out these loans default on them.

Sallie Mae went to bed with Freddie Mac, and as a result, there are a lot of illegitimate loans out there. Nothing wrong with community college for 2 years. Then your child transfers and goes to a “real” college for two. The diploma will only say where he graduated from. I believe whole-heartedly in WealthPilgrim’s advice to work, and pay as you go.

chuck wintner


Neal Frankle May 19, 2009 at 8:31 AM


I agree completely. I am no fan of ruining your retirement for your child’s college.


Patrick May 19, 2009 at 4:08 AM

Excellent suggestions, Neal. I think it is easy to fall into a pattern and accept the status quo, especially if the status quo is not broken. Luckily your reader has the advantage of knowing there is going to be a change and has the opportunity to plan for it.

I think all the suggestions are excellent, particularly asking the spouse to work if she is able. My Mother was a stay at home mom when we were growing up, but she went back to work when we were old enough to fend for ourselves after school for a couple hours. She loved the new challenges she got from working and the added income was a big help for our family. My parents got a late start on retirement savings, but once my Mom went back to work they started saving a lot more money for retirement.

One other suggestion for your reader is to consider letting your child take out some student loans or work part time to help defray the costs of his/her education. I know you want to help your child, which is commendable. But don’t do it at the expense of your retirement. Your child can borrow his/her way through school, but you can’t borrow your way through retirement. Good luck! :)


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